Ray's the Steaks is an increasingly popular "poor man's" steakhouse located in the busy Clarendon/Courthouse area of Arlington. Owner Michael Landrum shook up the local steakhouse scene when he opened the original Ray's up the street at 1725 Wilson Blvd. in Arlington eight years ago and began serving good beef for about half the price of the competition. He didn't charge extra for sides, which came with the meal, and he didn't bother dressing up the joint with anything more than some paint on the walls. Serving spicy cashews for munching and unusual cuts of meat, expect Ray's to be packed any night of the week. Even though they now accept reservations, the place gets crowded quickly and sometimes you have to still wait. Closest Metro is Courthouse.
December 2009: The ambience in the room as soon as you enter seems rushed - from the slightly snippy hostess to the mixed crowd of servers and chefs rushing between tables in the dining area. You can tell the owner doesn't want his patrons to linger too long, in part because he says he detests "restaurants as entertainment" but also because there's probably someone waiting for your spot. One good thing is that the food came relatively quickly, and it was delicious. We went to celebrate my Dad's birthday - and despite the debacle in getting here (the street address is Wilson Blvd, but the entrance is actually on Clarendon Blvd, causing initial confusion, and street parking is limited) - we all enjoyed our meal. The steaks were seasoned and cooked very well - Keith recommends you order slightly up as the medium-rare was a little red for his tastes. My Dad enjoyed his caesar salad and NY strip while my mom had a mixed green salad followed by a sinfully good filet mignon with a Burgundy mushroom creme sauce. We shared desserts and after, we were treated to hot shots of spiced cocoa. All in all, the food at Ray's is much higher quality and a great price compared to other top level steakhouses. I would recommend this place to all meat lovers.
February 2011: We went back to celebrate Keith's birthday and were greeted with complimentary glasses of rose champagne while we waited for our table. Coupled with the staff now sporting collared shirts and ties, it appears that Ray's the Steaks has up-ed their elegance factor. But would the food be the same? Yes, indeed it was. I comforted in my usual staples while Keith opted for the aged ribeye special of the night. He was very pleased and we left with warm bellies and totally satisfied. Ray's the Steaks remains one of the best - if not THE best - steakhouses in the DC area.
December 2011: Our good friends were in town from California and so we met up with them at Ray's for dinner. The place was still packed even though it is still technically holiday season. Our server seemed a little rushed, trying to get our orders in quickly. After deciding on the red wine special for the table to try (an Italian cabernet), we placed our food orders. I ordered something different for a change, opting for the vegetarian entree while Keith chose one of his favorites, the pepper crusted sirloin. Our friends ordered an item not included on the menu (think secret menu a la "In N' Out"), choosing to share the chateaubriand. The spiced nuts and rosemary focaccia bread were brought to the table as usual. Everyone except me, also ordered a cup of the crab bisque to start and noisily slurped up each drop in satisfaction. My entree was a generous portion of grilled vegetables that was pretty "meaty" and still filled me up. The chateaubriand cut was tender and a very large portion - more than enough for two to share, so Keith ended up taking home the leftovers and I included a picture below. It also came with two different bearnais sauces - a traditional and mushroom version. Overall, we all enjoyed our meal and our friends were happily stuffed with the classic steak fare of Ray's.
Jumbo Sea Scallops
grilled with onion and garlic
Portobello Mushroom Caps
with balsamic glaze served with eggplant, broccoli, grilled onions and aged bleu cheese
Key Lime Pie
Plus Keith ate:
with horseradish cream